Like a razorblade-filled bonbon, CANDYMAN is both delicious and surprisingly sharp
“Be my victim”, calls out the calm but powerful voice of a man who has been dead for a century.
Directed by Bernard Rose and loosely based on a story by Clive Barker, Candyman is first and foremost a tremendous horror film, but so much more than simply an entertaining slasher. It’s an astute exploration of urban legend and social and racial issues, and even a bizarre romance of sorts. With its gothic sensibilities and tragically sympathetic villain, it has more in common with classic Victorian fare like Frankenstein and The Phantom of the Opera than modern slashers.
But a modern tale it is, and in the harshest light of a contemporary vision, set in the projects — more specifically, what’s probably the most infamous of Chicago’s public housing projects: the Cabrini-Green apartment towers, which are also prominently used in other media portrayals of black poverty, like Cooley High and TV’s Good Times.
Virginia Madsen is Helen, a graduate student researching urban legends. She becomes fascinated at hearing tales of the Candyman, a hook-handed murderer who will kill you if you summon him by saying his name five times in a mirror (interestingly, a modern twist of the “Bloody Mary” folklore). The belief in this figure is a phenomenon concentrated in Cabrini-Green, where residents attribute him with a number of gruesome murders and fear to cross him.
Further research uncovers more of the story, and Helen’s attempt to demystify the Candyman myth has an impact on the community, weakening the belief that holds sway over them.
And that is something the Candyman can’t abide. A ghoul fueled by the “faith” of his believers, he is forced to deal with his followers to make them believe again — and punish the the interloper who has led them astray.
Despite being a modern, big city tale, Candyman exudes a classical aesthetic held up by a triumvirate of incredible set design, the gravitas of Tony Todd’s passionate performance as the Candyman, and the magnificently sweeping score by Philip Glass.
The film’s most incredible sequences are set in the environs of Cabrini-Green, and it’s here where some of the film’s most powerful horror imagery takes place. It’s a building so dilapidated and ill-kept that the Candyman can hollow out an abandoned section as his lair — a hypnotic combination of urban decay and gothic grandeur.
Only three years after Candyman, work began to to phase out the Cabrini-Green project over the course of the next decade and a half, rebuilding it into new housing which rejuvenated the area. But as is often the case, this beautification came at a cost — displacing poor residents who could no longer afford to live there. It’s this thought that sticks with me as I consider the Candyman and the believers who kept him alive.
Opulent and terrifying, vehement and thoughtful, Candyman is truly a film in a class of its own. Highly recommended.
Scream Factory went all out on this magnificent edition with 2K restorations (from 4K scans) of both the theatrical and unrated editions, each given its own disc with loads of extras. The theatrical disc includes new audio commentaries on the film, promo materials, and archival bonus features, while the director’s cut disc includes tons of new interviews and featurettes.
Special Features and Extras — Disc 1 (Theatrical)
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Bernard Rose And Actor Tony Todd
- NEW Audio Commentary With Authors Stephen Jones And Kim Newman
- Audio Commentary With Director Bernard Rose, Author Clive Barker, Producer Alan Poul And Actors Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen And Kasi Lemmons
- Audio Commentary With Bernard Rose, Moderated By The Movie Crypt’s Adam Green And Joe Lynch
- “Sweets To The Sweet: The Candyman Mythos” (23:49)
Interviews with Clive Barker, Writer/Director Bernard Rose, Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, and Kasi Lemmons
- “Clive Barker: Raising Hell” (10:46)
Interview with executive producer Clive Barker (who wrote the story on which Candyman is based)
- “The Heart of the Candyman: An Interview with Tony Todd” (7:07)
- Bernard Rose’s Storyboards (5:22)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:05)
- TV Spots (1:36)
- Still Gallery (5:19)
- Screenplay (BD-ROM)
Special Features and Extras — Disc 2
- NEW “Be My Victim” (9:47) — An Interview With Tony Todd
- NEW “It Was Always You, Helen” (13:11) — An Interview With Virginia Madsen
- NEW “Reflection In The Mirror” (9:48) — An Interview With Kasi Lemmons
- NEW “A Kid In Candyman” (13:36) with actor DeJuan Guy
- NEW “The Writing On The Wall: The Production Design Of Candyman” (6:22) — An Interview With Production Designer Jane Ann Stewart
- NEW “Forbidden Flesh: The Makeup FX Of Candyman” (8:02) — Including Interviews With Special Makeup Effects Artists Bob Keen, Gary J. Tunnicliffe And Mark Coulier
- NEW “A Story To Tell: Clive Barker’s The Forbidden” (18:39) — Writer Douglas E. Winter On Clive Barker’s Seminal Books Of Blood And Candyman’s Source Story, The Forbidden
- NEW “Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman” (20:41) — A Critical Analysis Of The Film With Writers Tananarive Due And Steven Barnes
Get it at Amazon:
If you enjoy reading Cinapse, purchasing items through our affiliate links can tip us with a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.